In the midst of an impressive comeback from season-ending back surgery last November, Ravens left guard Kelechi Osemele has set his ambitions on joining Yanda in the Pro Bowl.
"I think about it daily," Osemele said. "That's something that wakes me up in the morning and gets me going. It's my personal motivation to come out here every day and grind and get after it and get better. It's one of those things where it's a carrot right out in front of you. You set goals and aim and go after it."
Osemele, a mauling blocker, has displayed his agility, power and stamina throughout training camp, including sprinting 20 yards downfield to knock down free safety Darian Stewart on a touchdown by Ray Rice on a swing pass.
Drafted in the second round in 2012, Osemele started every game in the regular season at right tackle before shifting to left guard for the postseason during the Ravens' Super Bowl championship run.
Osemele, 6 feet 5, 330 pounds, started seven games last season before a herniated disk was repaired, ending his season. Healthy again, Osemele's back has stood up to punishment so far.
"Yes, I feel great," Osemele said. "I’ve been maintaining and taking care of that every day with treatment and core and all of that stuff. So, I’m feeling really good right now."
Under new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, the Ravens are implementing a zone-blocking system that allows the offensive line to block in the open field. That's a strong suit for Osemele.
"Exactly, that's what I like about it the most," Osemele said. "I feel like, as an offensive line, it's good to set the tone early and come off the ball, knock guys off the ball, assert your dominance, and, obviously, the play-action off of that and the passes off that [are important, too]. With the linebackers getting up in there, you have early success with the run game. I'm really confident."
Last season, the Ravens finished 30th in rushing offense with a franchise-low rushing yards.
The Ravens have made running the football an increased emphasis in their revamped offense after trying unsuccessfully to become a passing offense last season as quarterback Joe Flacco threw a career-high and franchise-record 22 interceptions and was sacked a career-high 48 times.
"Yes, I would say we got away from that a little bit," Osemele said. "We threw the ball a lot in past years, and with Kubiak coming in here, and installing his offense with the zone and everything, and the play-calling being more balanced, and maybe even shifting towards the run a little bit more, just a little, I feel like that should help things.”
And perhaps that could have Osemele head to the Pro Bowl for the first time.
With the Ravens' zone-blocking schemes, Osemele is hopeful of a successful season blocking for running backs Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce.
“I love it," Osemele said. "I think it opens up lanes for Ray to go out there and do his thing. And ‘B.P' is a guy that can make a read really fast on the ball. He’s very explosive. Being able to spread out the defense like that, and let those fast guys get in between the tackles and get outside the tackles, and stuff like that, spread the defense out, gas them up, get them tired, I think that should be really good.”